‘This can be my chance to showcase who I am’
Bill Kirby Jr., March 2022
Jeanae Zinzow believes her moment is waiting.
You can sense her anticipation.
“I feel like this can be my chance to showcase who I am,” says Zinzow, 22, the reigning Miss Black America – North Carolina, who now is bidding for the national crown at the Miss Black America Pageant scheduled for June 19 in Philadelphia.
The pageant was founded by philanthropist J. Morris Anderson and began in 1968 as a protest, Zinzow says, of the Miss America pageant that had yet to have an African American contestant.
That would change two years later, when Cheryl Adrienne Browne Hollingsworth, Miss Iowa 1970 and an African American, competed for the title at Atlantic City, New Jersey. Vanessa Williams became the first black to win the Miss America crown in 1984 as Miss New York.
“It branched out into a really big pageant,” Zinzow says of the Miss Black America Pageant, and has drawn endorsement from Oprah Winfrey, who competed as Miss Black America – Tennessee in the 1971 pageant.
Now, Zinzow is hoping to become the 54th woman to carry the title.
“They base their selection off people being a positive light in their community,” Zinzow says about being chosen to represent North Carolina. “Somebody from Miss Black America saw or heard about me and said, ‘We need someone like her to represent our state.’ I was taken aback at first. I said, ‘Is this really true?’ I signed up as a delegate.”
If pageant officials were in search of a “positive light,” they surely didn’t have to search long for Zinzow. Reaching out to this community is at her core, and it begins at her Simon Temple AME Zion Church on Yadkin Road.
“We assist those with health issues in our church,” she says, and particularly during the COVID-19 health pandemic. “I think we have over 4,000 members. We have elderly, as well as youth. We make sure everyone is feeling OK, including temperature checks. We have a food drive called Operation Inasmuch. We have a big truck. We have a culinary ministry, where we prepare food. Recently, we did one for Christmas. We pass out cans of food and clothing to the less fortunate. We have a ministry house in the back of our church.”
You’ll find Simon Temple AME Zion Church there for schoolchildren, too.
“We go to schools to see if they need things,” Zinzow says. “We go to schools like Westover, Seventy-First, Terry Sanford, E.E. Smith and Jack Britt. We do a school supply drive when schools get ready to start. We do backpacks and place them on the altar.”
And when it comes to our community’s homeless population, Zinzow has a soft spot in her heart, and she is there with Simon Temple AME Zion Church with an uplifting hand.
“I see a lot of homeless people,” she says. “You see more than you think you see. It’s disheartening. I believe everybody needs a place to call their own and especially now.”
‘Flowers of success’
Zinzow is just the type of contestant, you may surmise, Miss Black America Pageant officials are looking for in a national queen, and the third-year student at Fayetteville State University who is studying nursing with a concentration in midwifery recently caught the eye of Cumberland County commissioners, too.
“She is definitely worthy,” says Toni Stewart, vice chairwoman of the commissioners.
Stewart joined with Commissioners Glenn Adams, Larry Lancaster, Jeannette Council, Michael Boose, Jimmy Keefe and Charles Evans at a meeting on Jan. 18 to celebrate Zinzow and wish her well in the Miss Black America competition.
“To be crowned Miss Black America – North Carolina and become an official delegate is an enormous achievement,” Stewart told Zinzow. “You are committed to being an active representative for the betterment of young women in leading the way for other black girls. We congratulate you for continuing to showcase what it truly means to be Miss Black America – North Carolina.”
Zinzow told commissioners that her state title is like a dream come true.
“I feel like my light can shine way brighter with Miss Black America,” she told commissioners. “We don’t strive just to be a face for the black community. We strive to be a strong face for everyone, and with Miss Black America, our goal is to sow the seeds of positivity to reap the flowers of success. I’m just ready to go and showcase myself at nationals and let the world love me.”
This isn’t Zinzow’s first pageant. She was crowned Miss North Carolina Spokesmodel in 2017 at the pageant in Winston-Salem, where she finished ahead of about 280 contestants. But Miss Black America is a crown and sash Zinzow wants to bring back to Fayetteville and Cumberland County.
Zinzow arrives in Philadelphia on June 11, she says, and where contestants will meet the governor of Pennsylvania among other activities.
“It’s pretty jam-packed,” she says.
Then it’s the pageant on June 19.
“There are four big competitions,” Zinzow says. “There’s evening gown, swimsuit, talent and the questionnaire. For my talent, I will by doing a poem by Maya Angelou and a monologue.”
Who wouldn’t be? After all, it’s a national title at stake.
“I feel like this can be my chance to showcase who I am,” Zinzow said.